Personal Number Plates in the UK

A11 SET: Get Personal Number Plates for Your Car

There is no disputing that cars are extensions of their owners. Automobiles are after all a major investment, a valuable asset, a constant companion and a silent and mostly-dependable worker that carries their owners around to their destination. The relationship between man and machine in this sense can be very personal so much so that car owners can usually be identified by the way they personalise their respective vehicles. One clear representation of this car-owner connection is with the proliferation of personal number plates. In the UK, personal plates are officially known as “cherished marks”.

Origins of Personal Number Plates

Personal number plates, as can be expected, are a special type of license plates or vehicle registration plates. The use of license plates were first established in the late 1890s as a way of identifying similar make and model cars that ply on public roads. As cars went into mass production, telling one vehicle apart from another became an impossible task. Eventually, a system of vehicle registration evolved and numbered plates were attached to cars as a form of identification.

Soon enough the series of numbers and letters used for vehicle registration plates revealed interesting patterns, like a number series that coincided with the owner’s birthday or a set of lucky numbers. There are even patterns that resemble discernible words. Such patterns on registration index marks were considered more valuable or desirable than others. These special plates are now known as cherished marks or personal number plates and are generally either sold or otherwise auctioned off to the highest bidder. In other countries personal number plates are also known as vanity plates, personalised plates, prestige plates or private number plates.

Personal Number Plates in the UK

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is the sole government body that issues licenses for drivers and maintains a database of registered vehicles in the UK. The DVLA is also the authority that issues registration marks including personal number plates under the personalised registrations program. Note however that all registration numbers are the property of the Secretary of State. The vehicle owner only purchases the right of assignment for regular registration marks or personal number plates to be displayed on the specified vehicle.

Styles of Personal Number Plates

In other countries, the appearance of the letters or numbers on personal number plates or vanity plates is customised entirely as per the requirements of the vehicle owner making the purchase. Personal number plates in the UK are altogether coincidences with the lawfully generated combination of letters and numbers for registration marks. For example, whilst ordering a personal number plate with the word “KISS” is completely possible for other countries, UK vehicle owners must look for a combination like “K155”.

There are several personal number plate styles available in the UK based on the character sequence used for registration marks of a particular era.

  • Dateless number plates – These were the first issued registration marks and are referred to as dateless since the character sequence used did not include a year identifier. Dateless number plates were used from 1903 to 1963 and consisted of characters of up to 3 letters followed by 1 up to 4 digits of numbers. Personal number plates that belong to this category are highly sought after because of their vintage appeal. Examples include “A 1”, “1 A”, “ABC 1234” and “1234 ABC”.
     
  • Suffix number plates - From 1963 to 1983, the government shifted to suffix style number plates. They are so called because of the inclusion of a last letter on the sequence which indicated the year of the release. The pattern consisted of 3 letters followed by numbers of up to 3 digits and the year identifier letter. Examples are “ABC 1A” and “ABC 123A”.
     
  • Prefix number plates – Starting in 1983 the year indicator was placed at the front of the character sequence. The pattern was therefore rearranged to follow a format beginning with the year identifier letter prefixed to a set of numbers of up to 3 digits then a 3-letter set. Prefix style number plates was used until 2001. Examples for prefix style plates include “A1 ABC” and “A123 ABC”
     
  • Current or new style number plates – In 2001 the DVLA adopted a new style of number plates. This time they added a regional identifier consisting of 2 letters affixed to a 2-number age identifier then finally a random set of 3 letters. An example of the current style number plates would be “AB12 ABC”.

Sources for Personal Number Plates

Personal number plates may be bought directly from the DVLA either through their website or by phone. As an alternative, one may choose to participate at the auctions conducted by the DVLA. These auctions for personalised registration plates occur several times a year at various locations throughout Great Britain. The DVLA also maintains a pool of dealers or agents for personal number plates most of which have websites that will allow you to search and make purchases online 24/7.